The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) is the national orchestra of New Zealand. It is a crown entity owned by the Government of New Zealand, with 90 full-time players.
The orchestra was founded in 1946 as the National Orchestra (by Oswald Astley Cheesman and others) and administered by Radio New Zealand until 1989, under the name of the NZBC Symphony Orchestra (New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation). It is currently based in the Michael Fowler Centre but frequently performs also in the adjacent Wellington Town Hall in Wellington.
The NZSO has always had a heavy touring schedule within New Zealand. It performed in Christchurch as early as 1947. It performs its core series of 12 programmes in Wellington and Auckland, about half of those in Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin, and visits several provincial cities each year. It has several times toured overseas, notably in 2005 to the BBC Proms, the Snape Maltings, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the World Expo at Aichi in Japan.
For a number of years, the NZSO had no permanent conductor, but has had chief conductors. Franz-Paul Decker was chief conductor from 1991 to 1996, the last conductor to hold this title, and had the title of Conductor Laureate until his death in May, 2014. The first conductor to have the title of Music Director of the NZSO was James Judd, from 1999 to 2007. Judd is now the orchestra's Music Director Emeritus. In May 2007, Pietari Inkinen was named the NZSO's second Music Director, and he formally took up the post in January 2008.
The NZSO has recorded several LPs and many CDs, several with internationally known soloists such as Alessandra Marc and Donald McIntyre. In the last decade it has sold 500,000 CDs. It records at least one CD of New Zealand music each year. It has made a number of recordings on the American Koch label and now (2007) records regularly with Naxos. The latest recordings are two CDs of music by Jean Sibelius and one CD of music by Einojuhani Rautavaara.
In 2012, the NZSO collaborated with Booktrack and Salman Rushdie to create music for an enhanced edition of Rusdhie's short story In the South .
Its Wellington or Auckland concerts are broadcast in real time and online on Radio New Zealand Concert (formerly Concert FM, formerly the YC Network) and may be repeated.
The NZSO recorded part of Howard Shore's score for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, notably the "Mines of Moria" sequence, as well as an alternate version of the cue "The Breaking of the Fellowship". They also performed and recorded the entire score for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which was also composed by Shore.
National Youth Orchestra:
The NZSO National Youth Orchestra was founded by John Hopkins in 1959. It auditions afresh each year and, after an intensive rehearsal schedule, performs one programme, in 2007 to be repeated in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. In 2005 the orchestra inaugurated its Composer-in-Residence scheme appointing Robin Toan as first recipient of the award. In 2006, Claire Cowan was Composer-in-Residence.
The NYO celebrated its 50th Anniversary Celebratory Season in 2009, under the baton of Paul Daniel, with John Chen as soloist and Ben Morrison as Concertmaster. Their programme was Mahler's 7th Symphony, Ravel's Left-Hand piano concerto and an original composition by Natalie Hunt, Composer-in-Residence: Only to the Highest Mountain. The 2009 season also saw the return of John Hopkins to join in the celebrations.
New Zealand Chamber Orchestra:
The New Zealand Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1987 by NZSO violinist Stephen Managh, its first leader, and comprises members of the NZSO. Later renamed the NZSO Chamber Orchestra, they toured and recorded extensively for 13 years. They generally performed without a conductor under the direction of their first violinist and Musical Director Donald Armstrong.
They are not currently performing.